The battle to legalize marijuana across the United States is going through a slow period right now, with many state legislatures preparing to break for summer recess. Nevertheless, there were still a few significant developments over the past week, including a bill submitted to the U.S. Senate aimed at expanding the scope of research on specific compounds of the cannabis plant. Other highlights include the signing of a bill in Missouri that will allow marijuana offenders to have their records expunged.
Federal: CBD Bill Filed with the U.S. Senate
Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein recently submitted a bill called the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, which would allow the scientific community to study to therapeutic benefits of marijuana’s non-intoxicating compound. The bill requires “the Attorney General to make a determination as to whether cannabidiol should be a controlled substance and listed in a schedule under the Controlled Substances Act and to expand research on the potential medical benefits of cannabidiol and other marijuana components.” Yet, while the bill would offer some patients legal protection against federal prosecutors, it would still allow anyone caught with cannabis products containing THC to be charged with a crime.
“I strongly believe that more research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana, specifically cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, is needed,” Senator Feinstein said in a statement. “This narrowly focused bill takes a responsible approach by cutting the red tape associated with marijuana research. It paves the way for new research to be conducted to determine if cannabidiol can be an effective medication for serious illnesses, such as intractable epilepsy. Our bill also maintains safeguards to protect against illegal diversion.”
Missouri: New Law Allows Expungement of Marijuana Convictions
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon recently signed a bill into law that will allow marijuana offenders to have their criminal records expunged. The goal of the measure is to prevent citizens from missing out on employment and other opportunities because of a minor blemish on their record. Nixon said: “Missourians who have paid their debt to society and become law-abiding citizens deserve a chance to get a job and support their families. This bill represents a reasonable, balanced approach and I’m pleased to sign it into law today.” The new law will require those with pot convictions to prove a clean record has been maintained since getting out of jail or off probation – that includes making sure all fines are paid. For felonies, the individual will be forced to wait seven years after the completion of their sentence to apply for expungement. Misdemeanor offenders will be required to wait three years.
Guam: Lawmakers Reject Medical Marijuana Rules
Although the U.S. island territory of Guam legalized medical marijuana two years ago, the population is far from having a functional program. Last week, in a vote of 13-to-0, the legislature rejected the Department of Public Health and Social Services’ proposed medical marijuana rules. Lawmakers expressed concerns with the suggested bylaws, including “high fees and strict layers of regulations” that would make it next to impossible for patients to enjoy any benefit. Democratic Senator Tina Muna Barnes, a key figure in the passing of the Compassionate Cannabis Use Act, said the health department’s proposal revealed a need to strengthen the medical marijuana program. Incidentally, two measures intended to provide this enhancement have already been filed – one would allow patients to grow up to six plants for personal use. Both bills were schedule to be heard on Friday.
Pennsylvania: Industrial Hemp Legalized, Medical Marijuana Coming Soon?
Pennsylvania has officially legalized industrial hemp. On Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf put his signature on a bill that allows the creation of an industrial hemp pilot program, giving universities the opportunity to produce hemp for research purposes. “The U.S. industrial hemp industry has been estimated at over $500 million in annual retail sales and is still growing,” Wolf said in a statement. “Supporting this industry in Pennsylvania is a smart investment in the commonwealth’s economy.” In other news, Wolf told KDKA Morning News last week that while the Department of Health predicts it will take to 2018 to get the medical marijuana program up and running, it will not take that long for patients to get access. That’s because provisions in the bill allow patients to bring cannabis products in from legal states. However, Wolf failed to explain that these provisions force patients to break federal law.